As the creative industry becomes more and more competitive, professionals have to pretty much use everything in their arsenal to stand out from the crowd. One of the most fundamental ways to do this is by building your personal brand.
For advice on the subject, and how to create a personal brand that will help you land a job, we talk to Falko Ohlmer, the brain behind our recent
Falko, could start with a short introduction about yourself?
Sure! I’m Falko Ohlmer, born in 1977, a managing director and co-founder of Arndt Benedikt— Magic hands for magic brands. We are a Frankfurt-based design studio focusing on branding strategy and corporate design.I love graphic design, typography, and illustration. I love distorted guitars and raw vocals. I also love pizza, chilis, and beer.
How did your studio in Frankfurt evolve? How did you build your agency?
Before I started the agency, I was living in Mainz and working as a freelancer and an assistant professor teaching corporate design. During this time, my good friend Felix and I often discussed the idea of starting an agency together. Our initial goal was to pool our expertise together, extend our range of services, and ultimately be able to do more complex projects through collaboration. Basically, to get away from the issues from being a one-man show that creatives tend to have. To be honest, we were also looking forward to that incredible buzz you get from working with like-minded people from various creative fields. That’s what motivated us at the start and what continues to drive us to this day. Plus, our team power brings incredible results. It goes without saying that two people working together are more effective than two ‘lone warriors’.
Our team is the main focus of our agency. While our agency is growing and continues to evolve, we’re always questioning our own status quo. Everybody gets a say and can define their own role.
Our agency name is Arndt Benedikt. It is a name made up from the middle names of the two founders. Although the name stands for an imaginary figure, at the same time it’s a flexible entity that allows our team members to project their own meaning onto it. Therefore, Arndt Benedikt is every single member of our team and team spirit is key at Arndt Benedikt.
So even though we started off as a design agency, our current service has expanded beyond that. We currently offer a wider range of services including strategy building, branding consultancy, editorial-related assignments, and programming. This way, we can provide holistic hands-on implementation across a variety of medium. Right now I’m working with 16 amazing creatives. We want to continue to pursue our big plans, so at the moment, we’re also hiring again. Take a look at our career page if you’re interested!
You have built your own brand and helped many clients build theirs. In your opinion, what is a personal brand, why do you need one, and how do you create one?
To me, the way every person has their own unique personality is the way every business has about their brand. The image and perception that people have about you or your business. A brand is all the emotions behind how someone sees, feels, and thinks when they come across or interact with you or your business in all levels.
You have to ask yourself these questions and define ‘you’ for yourself in order to find a meaningful difference.
The reason that you may need a brand is simple: you can capitalize on it. But it also depends on what you make out of it and how you leverage it. Essentially, what I’m talking about here are the emotional and rational qualities that you want to hone in order to stand out from the crowd. The certain image you want to transmit and to be viewed in a very specific way.
Whether in a professional setting or on a date, we can start by asking ourselves these same questions: what’s your passion and fundamental vision? what motivates you? How will you achieve it? What makes you exceptional? What makes you amazing? How are you unique? What are you offering? You have to ask yourself these questions and define ‘you’ for yourself in order to find a meaningful difference.
My advice is to make it simple. Make it clear and make it work. You’ll only achieve your goal when things people say about you are exactly what you want them to say. When they see you just like how you want yourself to be seen.
My advice is to make it simple. Make it clear and make it work.
Do you have any tips or pieces of advice regarding self-promotion or approaching clients?
Take a good hard look at yourself and answer the questions we just discussed. Also ask yourself: why am I doing this? How am I doing it? And what am I doing? This process will help you refine your perceptions of yourself and your own brand. While asking yourself these questions is absolutely essential, your brand should be able to accommodate your clients’ needs. So, it’s equally important to consider who would you like to work for and what are the things can you bring to the table to best serve that client? How can your strengths address that client’s unmet needs? How does working with you benefit the client? How can you convincingly highlight those benefits? Those are the basic questions you need to tackle firmly. Once you have all the answers with clarity, you can get started.
And from there, stop overthinking! Go! Do it!
…your brand should be able to accommodate your clients’ needs. So, it’s equally important to consider who would you like to work for and what are the things can you bring to the table to best serve that client?
What are some of the bad recommendations you hear in the creative industry?
In general, I always try not to listen to recommendations. If there’s something I want to try, I give it a go. Recommendations are good, but trial and error learning worked way better for me. Plus, the trouble with recommendations is that they change from one day to the another. Stick to your ideas instead of listening to others.
You only have an Instagram account for your agency but not for your personal brand. Why?
My personal brand is the agency, in other words, I am an integral part of it. But to be honest I’m not on Instagram that much. Other people on our team are doing it, and that’s also due to the fact that I don’t have a private Instagram account. However, from a business point of view, Instagram is a great channel to highlight your portfolio, especially for young designers and freelancers. When I was a freelancer myself, it was very important for me to be mentioned and have my work featured in lots of blogs. That was how agencies got to know about me and offered me new projects. And that’s how it works now with Instagram. But for me, personally, I have a strong client base in which our relationships have evolved passed social media exchange. So, we tend to communicate more offline or via emails. But again, that always depends on who you want to get in touch with and how they prefer it.
How do you find the balance between making time for marketing and everyday creative tasks? What do you do when you feel unfocused or overwhelmed?
My days are pretty full and run on a strict schedule because now I’m also involved in a lot of administrative work. Because of that, I need to schedule free time for my creative work which is something that’s not always easy to do. Typically, I start early in the morning and really enjoy getting some work done before the hustle and bustle in the studio begins. That routine helps me personally to stay calm and focused. But I also need exercise in order to unwind and get my energy back. It is best accompanied by loud music 🙂
We really like the variety of merchandise you designed for us. Have you ever thought about becoming a fashion designer? If so, any brands come to your mind?
The merchandise was a collaborative effort from the team, actually, the whole project was. Everyone brought something to the table and created amazing results. We weren’t really aiming to channel our inner fashion designer, but one of our specific goals was to drive the activation of the brand offline. And from there we designed products that mirror the character of the brand and align with the sensibilities of the target group.
I can’t really say that there is one specific client we want to work for. I’m thankful we are able to help clients from a wide variety of industries and sectors because it allows me to come into contact with so many different kinds of expertise. It’s like having ongoing professional training courses at work. One goal which is vital to me though, I want to work with ambitious clients —with people who want to move forward and make a difference. That is what I enjoy the most.
Last one, what is that one question you wish you had asked your younger self?
I wouldn’t want to ask myself anything. I would tell myself: “Listen kiddo, don’t worry if something doesn’t work out. Setbacks are valuable lessons and help you grow. Everything is going to be fine.” Or to quote John Lennon: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” 🙂